Everything You Need to Know in the First Week of Breastfeeding
How do you know what to do in the first week of breastfeeding?? As an IBCLC, nurse, and 3 time mom, you might think that I have breastfeeding down to a science. While it’s true I have lots of tips and tricks, every breastfeeding experience can be so different! This series came about when I had my third baby. I wanted to share my experiences in real time and while I had another new breastfeeding journey fresh on my mind. So, this is the introduction into the series that covers the real experiences I had during my first week of breastfeeding!
(This blog series was originally in video format. Check it out below!)
My Birthing Experiences
Here’s a little background into my personal birthing experiences. I have just had my third little baby. My first two were hospital births. Both were great experiences. As a nurse, I feel very comfortable in a hospital. I advocated for myself and had great providers. At first, I looked around a little bit until I found providers that fit within my preferences and style. Overall, both of my hospital births were great!
For my third birthing experience, my family and I were living in Belgium. In Europe, home births are a little more common than they are in the U.S. (even though most births are still in the hospital in Europe as well). I’ve always wanted to have a home birth, and this was my perfect chance to do it!
Breastfeeding Day One is all about Learning
Day one looked very different in a hospital versus at home. But the general rule is the same, day one of breastfeeding is for learning.
Skin to Skin
Hopefully you are able to do some skin to skin for the first hour right after birth. This will depend on what kind of birth you had, vaginal vs. cesarean, if you had any complications, or if your baby went to the NICU. If you were able to do some skin to skin, the idea is that baby will be able to find that first latch all by themselves sometime in the first hour. If you are in the hospital, the nurses can help you or the baby can do it on their own.
You are not going to have copious amounts of milk that first day. If you are expecting the milk factory to start then, please know that isn’t going to happen. Your breast are still going to be soft. You will be making colostrum, which is a goldish color comes in small quantities. You won’t be making a lot, but you will be making enough for what your baby needs.
That first day, your baby’s stomach is only the size of a cherry. About one tablespoon is all it can hold, so please know you are making enough. A small amount is easy for your baby to digest quickly, so your baby is going to be eating a lot. That is very normal!
Focus on a Good Latch
The first 24 hours is a perfect time to focus on getting a very good latch. This is time practicing for the baby to get a good latch and for you to help facilitate that good latch. The first 24 hours is going to make a big difference on you breastfeeding relationship. Take your time. Don’t tolerate crappy latches. If your baby has latched on and it’s not right, stick a finger in to break the suction and start again. It’s a learning curve for both you and baby.
Online Breast Feeding Course or Classes at Your Hospital
If you are still currently pregnant, it is a good idea to do as much research on breastfeeding as possible. New Little Life has a breastfeeding course! It is self paced and you can do it at home. This course will give you a great foundation for starting out breastfeeding. Check it out, here.
I highly recommend taking a class at your hospital or online. This will give you a good foundation on what to expect, how to start it off right and answer your basic questions. Everyone’s experience is different and you will have to learn and adapt, but the basic information is the same.
Breastfeeding Day Two is all about Healing
In Day 2 of breastfeeding, your milk has not transitioned yet. You baby is still eating a lot and you have lots of colostrum available. This day is more of a focus on maternal healing. Day one you are riding the high, new baby, figuring stuff out, etc. Day two is when the sore muscles kick in and your nipples are probably getting a little sore and baby is still eating a lot. You shouldn’t be in a lot of serious pain breastfeeding. If you are something is not quite right. It does feel like a sunburn, raw feeling on your nipple. It will take a minute to get used to it. Again, if it’s hurting quite badly, you need to find some help.
You baby is eating every couple of hours or more. They shouldn’t go longer that 3 – 4 hours between feedings. Your pediatrician can give you direction on that based on their weight and history, but they are going to be eating a lot and that’s very normal.
Take care of yourself on Day 2, make sure you are healing and keep latching that baby on.
Breastfeeding Day Three is the Hardest
Breastfeeding on Day 3 is often the hardest day for moms. This is the day I see them struggling the most and posting on Facebook asking for help. There are a lot of things into play here:
- If you had your baby in the hospital, this is probably one of your first days home so that can be a little bit challenging.
- Your hormones are probably going a little bit crazy at this point. The baby blues are a real thing.
- You could be crying for no reason, up and down moody, and if that’s not normal for you, that can be a little jarring. It’s just hormones. It’s very normal. Hang in there.
- Your milk is starting to transition on this day. It’s still not in in high quantities, but your baby is probably hungry. By day three, their stomach size has about doubled to the size of a walnut. Be patient and latch your baby a lot. This is often the hardest day so keep that in mind. You are not going crazy and you are not alone. Day 2 and 3 were the hardest for me this week.
It can be very tempting to top off your baby with formula, but if you are really committed to breastfeeding, and there are no other problems, I would suggest you steer clear formula. The more you latch them and let them eat, the quicker your milk is going to come in. Hang in there on Day! It gets better.
Breastfeeding Day Four is all about the Milk
Ok, Day 4. Hopefully your milk has really started to transition and you are feeling a little bit fuller. In the blog for Day 4, we talk about engorgement. You can find a lot of helpful tips on dealing with that there.
The best thing you can do for engorgement is to feed your baby. Try not to bust out the pump. I know it can be tempting because you feel like there is so much milk in there, but please know it’s not only milk but it’s also some swelling there too.
Be careful the signals you send your body. The more you empty the milk, the more milk you are going to make. You want to manage it on a comfort level and have the least amount of stimulation, other than your baby. Just survive the day. Your baby can’t be fed too much! Use them for your main source of engorgement comfort.
Breastfeeding Day Five is all about a Routine
Let’s move on to Day 5. Hopefully you are feeling more comfortable today. You are probably dealing with some engorgement today, which is normal. I hope that you are starting to get to know your baby and their hunger cues and kind of a routine (although routines really don’t exist with newborns ) But you may be starting to notice some of their patterns.
If you are having a lot of pain breastfeeding at this point or problems with the latch, you need to contact a lactation consultant. It is so much easier to fix these problems at the beginning rather than letting them go and trying to deal with cracked nipples, bleeding and exhaustion.
Don’t be afraid to reach out to your local lactation counselor, your OB, your pediatrician or anyone that can help you with your breastfeeding journey. If you can’t find a local lactation consultant, you can reach out to me. I mostly work with working moms, so if that’s you we will be an extra good fit! Book a call with me, here.
You are probably leaking a lot of milk at this point. I have other blogs and videos dealing with this subject. Feel free to visit those to check out what’s available to help with this.
Day 5 is not a bad day. By now you should be starting to feel pretty good about things.
Breastfeeding Days Six and Seven are all Getting Baby Back to Birth Weight
Day 6 and Day 7 have been better. My little guy is eating around the clock, but he is giving me about a 4 hour stretch at night, which is awesome. He is starting to gain a little bit of weight back now that my milk is in so that is good. It is normal for babies to lose weight at the beginning, but by Day 7 they should be starting to gain it back.
We have had a couple of breastfeeding struggles of our own, so please don’t think this has been an easy week for me. Even as a nurse and lactation counselor and third time mom, we’ve still had quite a few struggles. We have had some things that are frustrating to me, so let’s hang in there and just do our best. I’m right there with you. I’m feeling it too. But today, on Day 7 we are starting to get into a good groove.
The First Week of Breastfeeding is Over. You Did It!!
The first week, you made it through!
Remember, early on when you’re feeling frustrated, or up in the middle of the night, or you are in pain, or you’re crying and can’t figure out your baby, it won’t be like this forever. I promise!
The first week and first few weeks on your little ones life are the trickiest of breastfeeding. If you can make it through those, then you are going to be one of those moms that you see easily breastfeeding while they are cooking, at the park, or doing whatever. Their baby is latched and they are chatting. That will be you one day, but it’s not going to be in the first week. Be patient with yourself and spend some time bonding with your baby and take things as they come. You’ve got this!
For the whole series of what to expect in the first week of breastfeeding, check out these links!
Breastfeeding Week One(this post)Fourth Day